Lawsuit claims corruption in Congo diamonds for arms deal

A former Anti-Terrorism Unit officer alleges senior Israeli military, business, and political figures were involved.

Yossi Kamisa, a former officer in the Israel Police Border Guard Anti-Terrorism Unit and advisor to the Ministry of National Infrastructures director general, has filed a NIS 2.55 million lawsuit with the Tel Aviv District Court against diamond merchant Dan Gertler, SIBAT - Foreign Defense Assistance and Defense Export Organization, and SIBAT director-general Gen. (Ret.) Yosi Ben-Hanan.

The lawsuit alleges that Gertler asked a former president of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) for a diamond mining franchise. The president replied that he would grant the franchise, on condition that Gertler would arrange a meeting with security personalities who would train the Congolese Army and provide military advice.

Kamisa claims that in July 2000, Avigdor Lieberman summoned him to a meeting at the Jerusalem offices of his company Nativ El Hamizrach. At the meeting, Lieberman told Kamisa that he was a partner in several future deals in the Congo, and wanted to share in the deals' security aspects.

Lieberman sought concealment

Kamisa claims that Lieberman and he had a prior acquaintance from the establishment of the Yisrael Beiteinu party. He said Lieberman referred him to Gertler, whom Lieberman called the acknowledged partner in the deals, since Lieberman wanted to conceal his involvement in them.

Gertler proposed that Kamisa set up an army in the Congo, in exchange for 80% of the proceeds, subject to signing the diamond mining franchise. Gertler also proposed to Kamisa an exclusive security contract for Congo's diamonds, provided the franchise deal went ahead.

Kamisa said he wanted a formal contract with Gertler, but was told that the diamond industry did not normally make contracts and that everything was settled by a handshake. Gertler added that since Lieberman was in the picture, Kamisa has no cause for concern. Kamisa said he updated Lieberman about the meeting.

Kamisa accepted Gertler's offer and the two men flew to the Congo in July 2000 to meet personalities in the regime. They met the president and army chief-of-staff, and Kamisa promised to try to obtain the necessary permits from the Israeli defense establishment.

A billion-dollar franchise

The lawsuit claims that the Congolese president accepted Kamisa's offer to establish the Congolese army. Kamisa said he made his assistance conditional on Gertler obtaining a diamond mining franchise in the Congo. The same day, an agreement was signed granting Gertler a diamond mining franchise worth $800 million-1 billion.

Kamisa alleges in the lawsuit that he was present during Gertler's trips when he bribed Congolese government officials and Angola Army generals who commanded Angola Army troops protecting the Congo capital Kinshasa, and who were associates of the Congo president.

Kamisa alleges that the Israel Ministry of Defense did not allow him to arrange meetings between the Congo Army deputy chief-of-staff and Israeli defense industries, but only with civilian industries.

The lawsuit claims that four months before Kamisa joined Gertler, Gertler tried to bring the Congo Army deputy chief-of-staff to Israel illegally, describing him as an earthworks contractor. The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs discovered the deception, and notified Gertler that it was considering filing a complaint against him with the Israel Police.

David Appel is involved

Kamisa says Gertler told him that he subsequently asked Lieberman to arrange matters, and that Lieberman contacted then Ministry of Foreign Affairs director general Eitan Bentsur, with the result that no complaint was filed.

Kamisa said he was informed that Gertler had met David Appel and the Congo Army deputy chief-of-staff. The lawsuit claims that Gertler told Kamisa that Appel was also a partner in the project, and that Kamisa must keep this fact confidential.

The lawsuit claims that a week later, Gertler summoned Kamisa to cancel their agreement. Gertler claimed the reason was media reports about the so-called "diamonds for an army deal" in the Congo.

In October 2000, Kamisa signed a receipt settling the account with Gertler for NIS 1.4 million, in exchange for foregoing any claims or demands relating to security for diamond mining in the Congo.

Kamisa said he pursued his efforts to obtain permission to set up and train the Congo Army. Ben-Hanan suggested that he contact a colleague Maj.-Gern. (res.) Meir Dagan (now head of the Mossad), but Kamisa rejected the offer.

Kamisa said in January 2001, SIBAT rejected his application to set up and train the Congo Army on the grounds that it violated Israel's defense export policy.

"Policy has changed"

Kamisa claims that at the same time SIBAT rejected his application, Meir Dagan and Maj.-Gen. (res.) Avigdor Ben-Gal (Yanoush) submitted a similar application to train the Congo Army in Israel and in the Congo, in cooperation with Gertler.

The lawsuit claims that shortly after Kamisa's application was rejected, a delegation of senior Congo Army officers arrived in Israel and visited the same defense industries that were blocked to Kamisa.

SIBAT illegally approved the visit, without obtaining the consent of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The visit was cut short after Kamisa contacted Ministry of Foreign Affairs head of the bureau for coordination and director of the director general's bureau Danny Carmon, and the Congolese officers, including the air force commander and head of the presidential guard were flown back home.

The lawsuit claims that when Ben-Hanan was asked about the discrimination, he told Kamisa that the change in Congolese regime in January 2001 led to a change in Israel's defense export policy toward the country.

Kamisa claims that in 2001, Gertler tried to block Kamisa's activities in the Congo, and collaborated with Ben-Gal and Dagan instead, thereby grossly and fundamentally violated his agreement with Kamisa.

Kamisa claims that heavy pressure was exerted on him, threatening his job as an advisor to the Ministry of National Infrastructures director general. In September 2002, Kamisa notified Gertler's attorney that he had set up a meeting with Israel Police chief of investigations Commander Moshe Mizrahi in order to file a complaint against the parties involved in the affair.

In response, Kamisa was immediately notified that he was fired from the Ministry of National Infrastructures at the order of director general Yair Maayan. Maayan was appointed to the post by Lieberman when he served as Minister of National Infrastructures. Maayan is considered a political associate of Lieberman. The firing was canceled when Kamisa appealed to the National Labor Court.

Kamisa is suing Gertler for NIS 1.2 million, and SIBAT and Ben-Hanan for NIS 1.3 million.

No statements of defense have been filed yet.

Published by Globes [online] - www.globes.co.il - on February 18, 2004

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